25 September 2023

Give out but don’t give up: The original Memphis recordings

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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By Primal Scream, Sony Music 2018.

In 1993, UK hard rock band Primal Scream went to Memphis to make an album with legendary producer Tom Dowd and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section.

That completed album was never released and here’s the story why.

Looking for some inspiration after the incredible success of their genre-defying breakout album, Screamadelica (1991), which is now regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time, Primal Scream made the big decision to relocate to the US to record their follow-up record with what was widely regarded as the best producer and rhythm section in the business.

Their efforts resulted in what would become the Give Out But Don’t Give Up album, but once the band and Creation Records boss Alan McGee heard the completed recordings they were underwhelmed by it’s “country’ sound and the band brought in producer George Drakoulias to see what he could salvage from the recordings.

He had the band replace the guitar, drums and bass parts to toughen up the sound and the resultant album was finally released to substantial critical acclaim.

The band moved on confident with the decisions they had made and forgot about the original tapes.

However, the long forgotten original tracks were recently discovered in a box lurking in Primal Scream’s guitarist Andrew Innes’ basement and lead singer, Bobby Gillespie, on hearing them was amazed by what he heard.

He said: “I felt bad about us going to Memphis and not doing what we set out to do. Hearing these songs after all this time has made everything all right again. I feel redeemed.”

What he discovered on being reacquainted with the recordings was that Dowd’s deft production had merged the sublime rhythm section of drummer Roger Hawkins and bassist David Hood with one of the UK’s best ever rock bands to produce a glorious mix of blues, gospel, country soul and rock‘n’roll.

In essence what he had done was to produce an album that was brilliant but a complete departure from the previous sound of the band.

It was a step that they weren’t ready for.

This is Primal Scream as you’ve never heard them before.

Their sound is quieter and more nuanced and I feel that the mix brings out the brilliance, and beauty, of the songwriting better than the officially released version ever did.

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